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Planting the Musical Seeds : New Age Duo Melds Its Songs With Its Concerns for the Environment

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Remember those stories about plants growing better in an atmosphere of pleasant music? If the reports are true, the New Age team of Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel must have the happiest greenery in the Western United States. Their latest album, “In The Garden,” is a pure celebration of the joys of plant cultivation.

Guitarist Tingstad and woodwind player Rumbel, who appear at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa tonight, have made the most of melding their music and their concerns about the environment. Their playing, which ranges from gentle oboe-guitar folk melodies and Renaissance-like dances to more urgent, jazz-tinged rhythms, is almost always conceived from an outdoors perspective.

“In The Garden,” which has hit the Top 10 of Billboard magazine’s New Age chart, features songs with such titles as “Iris in Moonlight,” “Bonsai Picnic” and “Roses For Jesse.” The pieces are environmentally themed sketches encapsulating the concern for nature that has characterized all the duo’s recordings. Additionally, a portion of the album’s proceeds are being donated to three nonprofit gardening organizations: the National Gardening Assn., the Center For Plant Conservation and the Seed Savers Exchange.

The Washington state-based performers have frequently participated--both individually and in tandem--in efforts to preserve the environment. In 1991, they performed at U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service symposiums as well as the National Audubon Society convention.

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“As citizens, we are obliged to voice our opinions, and the music Eric and I create is an artistic way of doing just that,” said the 40-year-old Rumble.

Tingstad agrees. “Like the native people who lived here for generations, we have got to learn to live lightly on this planet.”

Rumbel, who was born in San Antonio, Tex., spent the late ‘70s and early ‘80s working with the Paul Winter Consort. In 1984, she met Tingstad at an Oregon outdoor festival. Their creative collaboration began in 1986 with an album titled “Emerald.” “In The Garden” is their sixth recording together. The son of a teacher and a civil-rights activist, Tingstad, 36, is a veteran of the Seattle rock scene. In the early ‘80s, he rediscovered the acoustic guitar and quickly became highly visible in the emerging New Age music movement.

A self-taught horticulturist who was born with the proverbial green thumb, Tingstad believes fervently in the correlations between music, life and nature.

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“You can find a lot of metaphors about life in the garden--renewal, patience, perseverance, growth, reaping and on and on,” he said. “These are the kind of lessons you learn, so to speak, from the ground up.”


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